Zoltan Varadi photographer

How far back does this show go? When did you start taking pictures of musicians and bands?

The earliest ones I’m not exactly sure of the date I believe it’s ’91 or ’92. They were before my involvement in the local media just two shots of SNFU at Mac Hall.

So not for VOX or Fast Forward .

No. I was in journalism school and learning how to shoot there. I just can’t remember the exact date of the shows.

What’s the span from early ’90s to when?

Again I’m not exactly sure of the very last one. I’m pretty sure it’s ’99. So it’s the ’90s. I know Lemmy [from Motörhead] that’s the last show but I don’t know if he played in ’98 or ’99. A lot my tags say “circa” because I can’t remember.

Were most of the photos for VOX or Fast Forward ?

Yeah the bulk of them for those two publications.

You were in the first issue of Fast Forward weren’t you?

Yeah I shot the first cover.

Any from the Straight ?

No I didn’t use any of those because by that point I had shot most of my best stuff I think. I don’t want to talk about the Straight .

Were you a music freak before the photography?

Oh yeah. I’m one of those people who can watch a rock doc on any band even if I hate them. Last year I watched full-length features on Rush and The Eagles and I hate both those bands. But I will sit there through the whole thing enraptured. I was like that from childhood on. When I first got a Beatles record. Actually pre-Beatles I had K-Tel 8-tracks. As a teenager I started going to punk shows at community centres. When I went to journalism school I actually went to just learn the writing side but when I was there I really got into photography and went down that route. You pick writing or photography as your major at SAIT. So some of my earliest assignments I would just go to the Westward Club and shoot local bands there. They were terrible photos because I was still learning how to meter in the dark with no flash.

Did you waste any good opportunities while learning? I mean any bands that went on to be big and you just have a black frame?

I’ve had many black frames beyond just learning. When I was supposedly established and shooting all this stuff I don’t know what year it was again but I got a press pass to go shoot U2 in Edmonton. I decided I wanted to shoot it on transparency film because it’s higher quality and it came back just black. I don’t know what I did. I don’t really care because it’s U2. I don’t think I screwed up anything important early on it’s more just looking back now for my show and seeing what’s missing from my archives from having just moved around.

You lost negatives?

They might still be around but I just couldn’t find them. They weren’t great photos but I would have liked to have them. I got The Ramones at Infest Courtney Love playing at Race City Speedway or something with Hole. Not great but very indicative of the time. So yeah there’s a few gaps in my historical record. Oh wait! I did screw up. I have some very blurry photos of Gwar when they played the Westward Club. But I had fun.

Anything weird happen to you while shooting any of these?

I got to meet Lemmy a couple of times. By meet I mean I got to be in the same room as Lemmy and technically be introduced to him but just got the kind of amphetamine-eye stare and he turned away. But I did get to have my picture taken with him a couple of times. But I’m afraid nothing. Not that I remember.

The ongoing theme.


You were saying one of the biggest challenges with the show was just digitally retouching these photos and getting rid of the dust.

Yeah. It’s funny another publication in town wrote about my extensive archive — it’s like two liquor store boxes that I’ve been carrying around for 20 years that are kind of taped together and falling apart. Everything’s just dumped in them and unlabelled. So every time I do something like this which is not very often I have to go through hold them up to the light and try to find them. There’s like cat hair in there.

And not labelled at all?

Some are most aren’t. That’s painful because I have to go through old student exercises that I still have you know depth of field exercises and stuff like that. I have to go through those looking for all this stuff which is kind of mixed up all over the place trying to find it. Then yeah I get it scanned and got them back and a lot of it was in good shape but some of the older VOX photos were really dusty and needed several hours of digital touching up.

I can’t believe you still have the boxes after moving around so much.

Yeah they’ve been through several places in Calgary several places in Edmonton a couple of places in Toronto and back again.

Oh yeah you worked at SEE in Edmonton. Did you shoot for them as well?

Occasionally but by then I was doing more of the editing. For a few years I kind of wasn’t interested in photography. It just took a back seat. When I moved to Toronto I got back into it again but not bands — just street photography and documentary type stuff. Birds and babies.

Are you still shooting a lot now?

Um iPhone photos of my baby — thousands and thousands of photos. Occasionally a cat or a bird.

Where’s the venue for this show?

It’s called Pop-up Glenbow. It’s nothing right now it’s just a vacant gallery in Art Central. It’s the corner gallery that used to be Axis.

How many shots will be up?

There will be 28.

Ranging from KISS to Jann Arden?

Yeah. I left some stuff out that was maybe a little cooler like I have shots of Steve Albini and Shellac playing the Multicultural Centre but I didn’t use those. In the end it’s a photo show so in the end it’s what I thought were the better photos so that one got bumped in favour of maybe a few bands that I’m not crazy about. There’s some very ’90s stuff in there like Everclear and Veruca Salt and stuff like that. Canadian stuff like Sloan and Bob Wiseman and lots and lots of local stuff.